Countryside New Farmer Academy

The Countryside New Farmer Academy connects beginning farmers with valuable resources through internship and apprenticeship opportunities, farmland access, agricultural technical assistance, and business support. 

Countryside New Farmer Academy 

Our multi-year program creates paid career pathways for interns through classroom-style education in the principles of sustainable agriculture, technical training, business and financial planning, and supportive working relationships with beginning/mentor farmers. 

Novice Interns train with Countryside staff at our training farm at Old Trail School in Bath. 

Intermediate interns work at our mentor farms, which enables beginning farmers/mentors to invest more time and effort towards building the capacity of their farm businesses and create sustainable employment opportunities on their farms. 

Apprentices are employed by mentor farmers in our network. 

Participants leave our program “farmland ready,” with a clear vision of their career path in agriculture and the tools they need to make it happen.

Countryside will invite applications from interns and mentor farmers for the 2023 season in January. To learn more, contact Countryside at info@countrysidefoodandfarms.org. 

Program History 

Countryside CEO, Tracy Emrick and Sustainability and Special Programs Coordinator, Annie Preston, launched the Beginning Farmer Intern and Apprentice Program during the 2018 growing season.

The pilot year began our work to grow the next generation of food producers and farmland stewards! We welcomed and trained two interns, who developed farm skills while working on a few Countryside Initiative farms in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We also placed our first apprentice at Trapp Family Farm, where she spent time honing her skills and learning additional subject matter such as farm business practices and record keeping.

In 2019, Countryside expanded the program and welcomed a full-time Farm Educator to work with interns on our partner farm at Old Trail School. The summer of 2019 welcomed four interns, two of whom held placements on Countryside Initiative Farms.

In 2020, Countryside hired Farm Manager/Program Director, Ginnette Simko and the program grew to new heights! Ginnette’s leadership has made the program arguably one of the best new farmer program plans in the country. 

Renamed the “New Farmer Academy,” Ginnette created a formalized and enhanced training curriculum and built invaluable partnerships with the Sustainable Agriculture Program at LCCC and OSU-Extension educators, and expanded our network of mentor farmers to 16 across northeast Ohio.

In 2021, all three 2020 NFA interns returned to the program and we were able to bring 5 additional interns on board. Here is a slideshow highlighting their experiences this year. Our staff has also expanded to address the growing needs of our program and now includes a Program Manager to help develop and expand the New Farmer Academy.

Old Trail School Partnership and the Learning Farm 

Countryside and Old Trail School partnered in 2018 on the ‘Farm Project’, working together to change the future of food and farming. Through this partnership, Countryside’s New Farmer Academy is based at the learning farm on Old Trail School’s campus. The six-acre certified organic farm consists of two greenhouses, hoop house, a large vegetable plot with 45 beds, and a healing garden for Old Trail School students. In the coming years we hope to expand operations to include chickens, beekeeping, row crops, and heritage livestock breeding. 

Novice and intermediate interns in Countryside’s New Farmer Academy meet at Old Trail Farm every other week for classroom educationNovice interns also receive hand-on technical training in crop production at OTF. The learning farm provides a more controlled environment than an active farm business and has micro-learning areas with lower consequences as interns gain experience and confidence. And while they will still have set production goals to meet, the Farm Manager will be better able to focus on the fundamentals than a farmer at an active farm operation. 

The school actively uses the farm through their Edible Education Program, a curriculum for pre-K through Grade 8 students to learn about agriculture, food science, biology, and our food system. The Edible Education faculty work with Countryside’s Farm Manager to incorporate educational opportunities into the gardens. School students will occasionally work with novice interns, who introduce concepts of sustainable agriculture to the students and build a culture of learn-by-teaching. 

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